No guest appearance this week, which unfortunately results in my proportion of the podcast time regressing to its mean. Don't fret! Tune in for my analysis and I promise on working to kidnap new guests for upcoming shows. As usual, Kris brings it with his inside access to the labyrinthine depths of USAC. I suspect he can actually communicate with Gentry telepathically.
LIKE Bright Side of the Sun on Facebook!
The Phoenix Suns have managed to play their way up the rankings with their wonderful play as of late. Unfortunately those rankings are the order in which teams draft and the descriptor "wonderful" is meant in total sarcasm. Nice Job Suns [more sarcasm]!
But in all honesty, don’t you think that playing our way into a top five pick, without actually purposeful tanking, is exactly what is called for here. Imagine this current squad squeaking out 35-40 wins and drafting in the 12-14 range. I can’t think of a worse scenario occurring.
Over the past two weeks, despite the horrible game action we are being subjected to, my brethren BSOTS’ers have pumped out quality article after quality article [after my crappy articles] about the Suns situation, looks at free agency and some draft info.
For great insight on the draft, you should check out what Kris Habbas has to say – he spends about the same amount of time on breaking down prospects as a 13 year old virgin playing World of Warcraft. Trust me, that is a lot of time. I don’t know about Kris’s habits, but I sure am attracted to his scouting reports J.
You can also get a load of information from Jim Coughenour, but I warn you, bring a thesaurus because he learns you some words. I feel my IQ rising as someone reads and explains his articles to me. Additionally Dave, Sean and Jacob have incredible inside access and insight, and they have been on a roll lately.
Me, I am trying to keep up, so here is a very brief, and completely incomplete breakdown of the 2013 draft lottery choices, chock full of missing details that I am sure Kris or someone else can fill in. I thought it might be time to look at who we might pick up this summer to tide us over until our savior, Andrew Wiggins [or Jabari Parker, or some other currently unknown guy that plays his way into our hearts and souls], comes down from the heavens in an ugly suit [Madison Square Garden] as our coveted franchise savior.
Disclaimer: As a former scout, I have a strict rule not to draw conclusions about any player unless I have seen at least 15 games [on video] over a minimum of two years, and have seen him live both at a home and away game at least twice, if not more. That is my minimum and I usually go over that by a bunch. However, since I am no longer being paid to do that, and have a real job, I will admit that I haven’t seen all of the prospects play enough to draw any substantive conclusions [although a few I have – mostly U of A, ASU and UNC players]. So, keep in mind that anything I say needs to be taken with a bowl full of salt, and certainly don’t hold anything I am saying to be the gospel. This is just to get familiar with some of the prospects.
I will only look at the guys I think are battling for the top 10 [so I will pare it down to about 15 guys – if I miss someone, feel free to chime in] and will list them in alphabetical order, so as not to give you the idea that I think this will be the draft order:
Huge, Long and Skinny. Really a perimeter player in a C body. Austin looked soft, with little post game to match. He does have perimeter skills, but is not a dominating presence in the paint defensively like a Noel, Davis or even Henson. He is a project that could turn into an interesting player, but like Perry Jones, it may be a while before he shows us enough to draft him in the lottery. My guess is he stays another year.
Powerful and skilled, Bennett has perimeter skill in combination with a savvy inside game. He thrives off the offensive glass, can put it on the floor with excellent handles and can shoot out to the college three with proficiency. He reminds me of Derrick Williams, but a little stronger/tougher and certainly more advanced at his age than Williams was. Like D-Will, his main issue is what position he would play at the next level, as he is undersized for the "4" and at this point not a SF defender at the NBA level. It would be interesting to see his game evolve at the college level before rolling the dice on him. However, he is one of those "ready now" players in that he is strong and has skills that can translate to the NBA. If not drafted in the top 10, he is one of those "steal" guys. In the top 10, he is going to have to define his game to meet the expectations. I do like him though, and can see him moving up into the top 5. If he were 6-11, he would clearly be the #1 pick in my opinion.
In his second year, he has improved across the board, something I like from players. He shoots the ball well [52%, 39%], has increased his assists [4.6 to 7.1] and decreased his turnovers [2.8 to 1.9] while keeping Michigan in the top 5 this season. While he has some quality teammates helping him, he clearly is the engine of that squad. Burke is showing that he can man the point and although small, is strong enough and a good enough player to become a solid NBA point guard. Top 5 is questionable simply because I see bigger upside guys going ahead of him, but he will more than likely be the first PG taken in this draft and will be in the top 10. He is a well-known sleeper, if there is such a thing.
An interesting prospect, Gobert has not played against a lot of top competition. He is ridiculously long, tall and skinny, much like Isaiah Austin. He is 7-0 with a 7-9 wingspan, and weighs in at somewhere between beanpole and walking stick. From what I have seen [very little] he is relatively athletic and decently aggressive, although loses focus at times. He is a defensive presence and can block shots with veracity as well as foul with eagerness. He lacks any post game from what I have observed and is definitely a project. Will someone take him in the top 5? Probably. Could they be looking at another Alex Ajinca? Equally probable.
A scorer in the "volume" category, Goodwin possesses skill and some believe he is ready for the lottery.The games I saw were a mixed bag. Against Louisville he was solid and looked every bit the lottery pick. Versus Baylor he was decent and against Notre Dame and Vanderbilt, he was awful and not worthy of being drafted. He is extremely athletic in the same mold as McLemore, but might be a bit smaller than him and clearly is not the shooter McLemore is. I am convinced that he can be a solid player, but think there are quite a few shooting guards and small forwards in this draft that are currently better than him, and he should consider staying in school. But he goes to Kentucky, so that isn't happening. Look for him to vacillate in the 8-15 range.
Everyone loves Len. He is the Meyers Leonard of this year’s draft. Tall and long, Len is a defensive presence and has improved his offensive game this season. I watched him mostly last season, but will get a better look at him when Maryland takes on UNC on Saturday. Last season, Len was receiving overwhelmingly positive comments, yet I saw a guy that had a long way to go. He is raw offensively and tended to overreach on the defensive end. Another big project that some may feel deserves a top 5 look. Until I see him play more, I am sticking with what I remember, and that is this guy is still a project.
I have seen every single game he has played with UNC and can say wholeheartedly, while I would love to see him drafted high and succeed in the NBA, I fear he will go the way of Marvin Williams. McAdoo is a physical specimen, and I think he has the ability to become a great college player. However, he suffers the same fate as guys like Marvin and Derrick Williams in that he lacks a defined skillset and position at the next level. McAdoo has little to no perimeter game, no ball handling skills, lacks refined post moves, isn’t an overwhelming rebounder, and is not much of a defender even at the college level. What is he? McAdoo is an athlete who currently thrives on his quickness and agility as a slasher to provide scoring and rebounding at a level expected of aa very good sophomore in college. As the main guy at Chapel Hill, McAdoo is suffering from defensive focus and is indecisive about how to play. This has really hurt his draft stock, and in my opinion, he needs to stay in school at least one more year, if not his full term, to develop small forward skills for the next level. I love the kid, but I wouldn’t draft him unless it was a late pick and we didn’t need him to develop for another couple of years. I can write more in-depth on McAdoo in a separate article.
I saw him play last year a couple of times including his destruction of Dook, so I love him already. Yet, I have not seen him this season and apparently will not since he injured his foot and may not return to action. Too bad, because this guy may have rocketed himself up the draft much like Dion Waiters did last season. Before the injury, McCollum was killing it, averaging almost 25 a game on 50% shooting [52% from 3]. While not the passer of a Damian Lillard, McCollum is equal the scorer and immensely efficient, albeit against lesser competition. Sure to drop in the draft position until workouts, this guy might just be a steal in the late to middle of the first round as the injury will push his stock lower. Or he may end up in the lottery. One thing is for sure, undersized combo guards are a mixed bag, and rarely turn into Eric Gordon [when healthy]. McCollum is not the distributor of better "combo" guards, but can flat out score the ball, so it remains to be seen how he carves out his niche in the NBA.
If this guy went to Boston College and had a tan, I would swear he was Jared Dudley. McDermott has a refined post-up game with an assortment of Luis Scola moves in his repertoire. But like an undersized Scola, he struggles against bigger defenders. He also possesses a very nice shot with range, but isn’t necessarily one to create his own shot. While not the defender Dudley is, McDermott is a guy in Dudley’s mold offensively at the NBA level. The question is, can he continue to be effective as a small forward at that level and what is he worth in a draft? I think late first round, so him being on this list is more as an honor to the fact that he may well end up as national player of the year. Plus, we all like Dudley.
There is a lot of buzz surrounding McLemore currently as he rises in draft status [some have him now at #1]. An incredible athlete, his game reminds me of Gerald Henderson [Dook]. He can flat out leap and dunk, and is a very adept catch and shoot guy. However, he currently lacks shoot off the dribble efficiency, doesn’t really create for himself or others, and isn’t a great defender. Many are falling in love with him, but I see a guy that needs to develop a bit more to be considered in the Russell Westbrook category and not in the Wayne Ellington/Henderson category. To be the #1 pick [or even a top 3], you kind of need to be that Derrick Rose, Westbrook, Irving kind of guy. I am not sure I see that level in him. What I do see is a lot of Gerald Henderson, and I am not sure what that is currently worth.
Is this the Shabazz draft? Some would lead you to believe so. Muhammad sat the first two games this season and came in looking a bit heavier and out of shape. He isn’t a super explosive athlete and at times seems underwhelming. Yet even in the underwhelming moments, Muhammad is uniquely effective as a player. He has shown an ability to knock down the three with efficiency [45%] and gets to the rim with a smooth, almost James Harden-esque style. Some claim him as the #1 pick, but I have a strong feeling that spot will go to a big with upside rather than a SF/SG with limited athleticism. Still, Muhammad has come in and produced nicely for UCLA and that cannot be ignored. I will watch him a bit more before declaring him a top 3 pick. Right now, I see him sliding into the 4-5 range. Is he good? Absolutely. Is he NBA good, maybe. He has that deceptively smooth and effective game that translates up, so he is one to keep an eye on.
Or should we call him "Not Anthony Davis" since all anyone can do is compare the two. That is what you get for signing with Kentucky though. Noel is a raw, long and an athletic defensive menace. A solid rebounder and fierce shot blocker in the Davis mold, Noel is raw and unfinished on the offensive end. At this point, to project him in the same light as Davis would be a mistake. So the question is, will Noel become closer to Anthony Davis or Hasheem Thabeet? One cannot tell unless the kid stays in school and develops a bit more. But again, he plays at Kentucky, where local ordinance strictly prohibits college players from staying in school more than one season. Look for him to get his 13 minutes off the bench as a disappointing high draft pick. In three years, he may well end up being the next Dikembe Mutumbo [or Thabeet].
First, Zellers > Plumlees, just had to say it. Second, Mason will get drafted and possibly in the top 10. A big, athletic and strong player, Plumlee is very aggressive and can run the floor and finish better than Luke, but not quite as good as Tyler or Cody. Lacking an NBA post game, Plumlee will find a role as a rebounder and strong defender who can roll off the picks and finish with authority. Can you say Jeff Pendergraph? Anyone drafting him in the top 10 should get fired. OK, maybe I should give him a break, I mean Shavlick Randolph is such a stud. And Josh McRoberts has proven me wrong [in that I though he would be solid]. His brother Miles is a 12th man, so as soon as the Suns acquire Miles, Mason will skyrocket to become the better brother.
A small forward in the Rudy Gay mold, Porter has size and length for the position. He is not a shot creator, nor does he have the range and consistency on his shot, but is pretty solid from outside as a catch and shoot player, as well as someone with a good mid-range game. He rebounds the ball well in college, although I am not sure if that will translate to the NBA due to his lack of elite athleticism and wiry frame. Porter has a decent IQ and moves well without the ball, but isn’t the scorer that usually is required to land in the lottery. Defensively he is average, although it would seem with his length he could be a better defender.
A strong player much in the mold of an Anthony Bennett, Poythress is a guy that should be able to mix it up both inside and out. However, he seems to lean more heavily perimeter and I only saw him in 4 games [ND, Baylor, Luoisville & Vandy] and he didn’t play particularly great. He has had other games where he played quite well, but I didn’t see them. So, I am a bit skeptical that Poythress is NBA ready. Again, the Kentucky rule is that he will bolt, and will more than likely be a first round pick, but I lean toward believing that he is a good candidate to stay, like Patrick Patterson, and develop his game a bit. He doesn’t seem to be a huge upside player in my opinion, and falls in that tweener forward category.
I must be missing something, because for a guy that has been hovering in the early second round of many mock drafts, I see a completely different picture. I don’t think there is a player in all of college basketball that has had a better season than this guy. At 6-7, he has a prototypical NBA small forward/big guard body, and a game to match. Why this guy isn’t being rated higher is a mystery to me. Thomas is a scorer who can shoot the ball, has mid-range game, and can even get to the rim. At 20 points and 7 boards a night, and shooting 47/41 on the season against good competition, Thomas seems like he is worthy of a top 14 pick, at least in this draft. Is it that NBA teams are only drafting on potential and ceiling, and not on production? Not a great defender, Thomas is good enough to be a first round pick and will be the Big Ten player of the year.
We all know that Zeller > Plumlee [I know that is completely irrelevant and that you might be getting a hint of my UNC Bias]. Since the Suns have employed the lesser brother [as they always do], that means the "greater" brother should be pretty special. Cody is the "greater" Zeller, and he is pretty solid. Is he on par with a Blake Griffin? Hells no! Is he the "Brook" to Tyler’s "Robin"? Quite possibly.
Zeller has many of the same qualities as Tyler, but with a more refined back to the basket game. Cody can run the floor better than most any big in college, is aggressive on the offensive glass, and an incredibly efficient scorer. He has actual post moves and doesn’t force anything. For his size, he isn’t a great rebounder and is not a menacing defensive presence. What he is at the next level is a guy that can possibly become a solid starting 4/5, but I think there is a ceiling to his play. As some of these other "promise" players wow in workouts, I see Zeller slipping in the draft, but will more than likely end up 5-10 in the order.
What do you think Suns fans? Which of these, or other players not listed, would be your preference for the Suns in the up-coming draft? Vote in the poll and tell us what you think in the comments below!
Before last night's game against one of the best teams in the league, I asked Alvin Gentry at what point does the season become more about player development than wins and losses?
"I would say we're approaching that," he replied to me, but with a visible drop in energy.
He had not yet publicly discussed the idea of scrapping the season, but recent losing streaks of 5, 6 and 7 in a span of just 23 games (that's 18 of 23 for you math majors) has forced everyone in the organization to start looking past the playoffs.
Clearly, this wasn't the first time Gentry contemplated his future and that of the team. But it was the first time he went public with the admission.
"We have to look at the big picture," he continued trying to hedge a bit. "Obviously if things don't turn in a hurry here, that would be our top priority to start looking at younger players, putting guys in situations to see what they can do."
It's dangerous for the coach to toss in the season before the halfway point. You run the risk of losing the team entirely, especially your veterans.
"I think it's difficult," Alvin Gentry said today after practice to the pool of reporters, clearly readier to discuss this topic after a night to think it over, "because everyone has a competitive nature about them."
Yeah, try telling Luis Scola - who wants to play for a winner more than anything - that he can't showcase his talents. Plus the Suns front office will want to get asset(s) for Luis this summer, and they won't get anything if he spends the rest of the season on the bench.
"I think ultimately you have to try to do what's best for the team and the future," he continued. "Somewhere along the line we are going to have to start playing the young guys."
Don't expect to see a whole 5-man unit of youngsters any time soon. To Gentry, it would be a disservice not to pair them with quality veterans who can help make it easier to succeed. He wants them to play quality minutes, not a bunch of garbage time.
There are 42 games left in the schedule as of today. When will this youth movement start?
It starts when everyone with blood in the game is on board with it, starting with the guy who offers the contracts and signs the paychecks. Gentry and PBO Lon Babby's contract are expiring at the end of the season, after all. And if Babby goes, GM Lance Blanks almost certainly goes with him. Ending the season in a mountain of losses could be their death knell.
But Gentry is pragmatic. He knows he has to think about the bigger picture. He will soon have a heart-to-heart with Lon Babby, Lance Blanks and Robert Sarver to "decide what's best and understand from that standpoint that there might be other things more important things than the win-loss record at this stage."
No one else in the organization has yet spoken publicly on this topic. Gentry acknowledged that a collective decision will come soon, but did not indicate it was imminent.
"We got to figure out what exactly do we have for the future, to see if they can show improvement over the next 30 games or whenever we decide to do this."
Another loss and another practice to try and get better. Before the Phoenix Suns (13-27) lost to the Oklahoma City Thunder (30-8) last night, their head coach Scott Brooks had an interesting observation about the state of the Suns and his respect for fellow head coach Alvin Gentry.
"It is almost impossible," stated Brooks about assimilating nine new players to a team. "I give coach Gentry a lot of respect, because when you have continuity like I have had and like our organization has had it makes it a lot smoother. It takes a lot of the stress of not knowing what to do. Our players know what to do. It makes it easier, I am not saying it is easy, but it makes it easier. This is a tough job."
That is one thing that feels appropriate to mention here as the Suns had a major overhaul with nine total new players including three current starters. Not many teams had that process happen, even the dregs of the league behind the Suns in the standings had some form of uniformity between last season and this current season.
What Did The Team Do?
Near the end of practice the team scrimmaged and then ran through sets that they will see Thursday night against the Milwaukee Bucks. They ran through a lot of ISO offense using Sebastian Telfair and Shannon Brown as their scout team quarterbacks of Brandon Jennings and Monta Ellis. The concept of an ISO offense is tough to guard especially if the team has good shooters and finishers with spacing. The Bucks beat the Suns late in their first meeting of the season, here there is a chance at redemption.
Expect to see a lot of smaller line-ups from the Suns and for P.J. Tucker to get his share of minutes on Ellis.
It was good to see Tucker actively talking throughout practice. Since the start of the season to today the former Euro League star has become one of the leaders on the team. He and Telfair were the most vocal out there directing traffic.
Channing Frye came in to see the team and get some shots up and as Gentry stated is living it up, "playing golf everyday." He wasn't on the course today, instead he was at practice talking with coaches, helping the younger players, and adding a positive force that, in a tough season, is desperately needed.
Jermaine O'Neal sat most of practice due to continuing back spasms. He missed the teams last game with the same issue, which is part of the grind of an 82-game season heightened by being in the league for going on 17 years.
Jared Dudley was a light participant in practice as he continues to nurse his strained right wrist. In the scrimmages and the walk through he was active and should be ready to go on Thursday.
Goran Dragic has been hampered by a nagging right ankle injury that occurred on the road against the Boston Celtics a few nights ago. He stated he is feeling better, but was limited in practice and should be ready to play in the next game. This was part of the reason he has been less aggressive over the past handful of games, "every game is different, maybe it is because we are losing, I don't know if it is because of that," said Dragic about his ankle limiting his aggressiveness. "I didn't feel so quick, but I just have to push myself even harder to practice more."
Coach Gentry's Take on having more practice time over the next two weeks:
"We are looking at that big gap and maybe trying to do something practice wise. I wouldn't call it a mini-camp, but to do things along those lines. It gives you really quality practice days. It is like we are in a bowl game, but we are 35 days short (in terms of practice time). We are not in a very good bowl, we are in the Spam Treat Bowl."
On the team taking short cuts in practice:
"No, I don't, but what I think is over practice you have to make sure that you are stopping and correcting. I have been in the league over 25 years. It is just human nature without the fans in the stands guys have the tendency to short-cut it a little bit. That is true with every team I have been on and I have been associated with some great teams, some average teams, and some bad teams."
The 2013 NBA Draft Update
As of today the team is slotted in the 5th, 12th, and the 27th spots in the draft if it were to happen today. The 12th pick comes via the Los Angeles Lakers who are playing sub-playoff quality basketball hence the swap of the pick.
The Suns would also receive the Memphis Grizzlies pick (No. 27) today.
Here are the players they are taking in the current Mock Draft (The Mock does not reflect current standings):
At No. 5 - Shabazz Muhammad
At No. 12 - Dario Saric
At No. 27 - Willie Cauley-Stein